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Full text of "The energies of men"

THE 

ENERGIES OF MEN 

a d a 
By WILLIAM JAMES 



/f<5 233/*? 




Walsh 
Philosophy 
Collection 



PRESENTED to the 

LIBRARIES of the 

UNIVERSITY o/TORONTO 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

Microsoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/energiesofmenOOjameuoft 



The Energies of Men 



By 
WILLIAM JAMES 

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY 



A Neiv Edition 



NEW YORK 

MOFFAT, YARD AND COMPANY 

1914 



Copyright 1907, bt 
THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE 

Reprinted by Permission 



INTRODUCTORY. 

THOUGH it would seem that the sane and 
simple message of this essay could not be 
misconstrued, the fact that it has been wholly 
misunderstood in newspaper comment warns us 
that it is necessary to preface it by stating that 
it does not counsel all persons to drive themselves 
at all times beyond the limits of ordinary endur- 
ance, that it is not a gospel of overstrain nor an 
advocate of the use of alcohol and opium as stim- 
ulants in emergencies. 

It states that "second wind" is a reality in the 
mental as in the physical realm and that it can be 
found and used when needed — nothing more. 



The Energies of Men 

EVERYONE knows what it is to start a 
piece of work, either intellectual or mus- 
cular, feeling stale — or oold, as an Adirondack 
guide once put it to me. And everybody knows 
what it is to " warm up" to his job. The process 
of warming up gets particularly striking in the 
phenomenon known as "second wind." On usual 
occasions we make a practice of stopping an oc- 
cupation as soon as we meet the first effective 
layer (so to call it) of fatigue. We have then 
walked, played, or worked " enough," so we de- 
sist. That amount of fatigue is an efficacious ob- 
struction on this side of which our usual life is 
cast. But if an unusual necessity forces us to 
press onward, a surprising thing occurs. The 
fatigue gets worse up to a certain critical point, 
when gradually or suddenly it passes away, and 
we are fresher than before. We have evidently 
tapped a level of new energy, masked until then 
by the fatigue-obstacle usually obeyed. There 
may be layer after layer of this experience. A 
third and a fourth "wind" may supervene. Men- 
tal activity shows the phenomenon as well as 
physical, and in exceptional cases we may find, 

[7] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

beyond the very extremity of fatigue-distress, 
amounts of ease and power that we never 
dreamed ourselves to own, — sources of strength 
habitually not taxed at all, because habitually we 
never push through the obstruction, never pass 
those early critical points. 

Getting One's Second Wind. 

For many years I have mused on the phenome 
non of second wind, trying to find a physiologica 
theory. It is evident that our organism has 
stored-up reserves of energy that are ordinarily 
not called upon, but that may be called upon: 
deeper and deeper strata of combustible or 
explosible material, discontinuously arranged, 
but ready for use by anyone who probes so 
deep, and repairing themselves by rest as well 
as do the superficial strata. Most of us con- 
tinue living unnecessarily near our surface. 
Our energy-budget is like our nutritive budget. 
Physiologists say that a man is in "nutritive 
equilibrium" when day after day he neither gains 
nor loses weight. But the odd thing is that this 
condition may obtain on astonishingly different 
amounts of food. Take a man in nutritive 
equilibrium, and systematically increase or les- 

[8] 



i 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

sen his rations. In the first case he will begin to 
gain weight, in the second case to lose it. The 
change will be greatest on the first day, less on 
the second, less still on the third; and so on, till 
he has gained all that he will gain, or lost all that 
he will lose, on that altered diet. He is now in 
nutritive equilibrium again, but with a new 
weight ; and this neither lessens nor increases be- 
cause his various combustion-processes have ad- 
justed themselves to the changed dietary. He 
gets rid, in one way or another, of just as much 
N, C, H, etc., as he takes in per diem. 

Just so one can be in what I might call "effi- 
ciency-equilibrium" (neither gaining nor losing 
power when once the equilibrium is reached) on 
astonishingly different quantities of work, no 
matter in what direction the work may be meas- 
ured. It may be physical work, intellectual 
work, moral work, or spiritual work. 

Keeping Up a Faster Pace. 
Of course there are limits: the trees don't 
grow into the sky. But the plain fact remains 
that men the world over possess amounts of re- 
source which only very exceptional individuals 
push to their extremes of use. But the very same 

[9] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

individual, pushing his energies to their extreme, 
may in a vast number of cases keep the pace up 
day after day, and find no "reaction" of a bad 
sort, so long as decent hygienic conditions are 
preserved. His more active rate of energizing 
does not wreck him; for the organism adapts it- 
self, and as the rate of waste augments, aug- 
ments correspondingly the rate of repair. 

I say the rate and not the time of repair. The 
busiest man needs no more hours of rest than the 
idler. Some years ago Professor Patrick, of the 
Iowa State University, kept three young men 
awake for four days and nights. When his ob- 
servations on them were finished, the subjects 
were permitted to sleep themselves out. All 
awoke from this sleep completely refreshed, but 
the one who took longest to restore himself from 
his long vigil only slept one-third more time than 
was regular with him. 

If my reader will put together these two con- 
ceptions, first, that few men live at their maxi- 
mum of energy, and second, that anyone may be 
in vital equilibrium at very different rates of 
energizing, he will find, I think, that a very 
pretty practical problem of national economy, as 

[io] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

well as of individual ethics, opens upon his view. 
In rough terms, we may say that a man who en- 
ergizes below his normal maximum fails by just 
so much to profit by his chance at life; and that 
a nation filled with such men is inferior to a na- 
tion run at higher pressure. The problem is, 
then, how can men be trained up to their most 
useful pitch of energy? And how can nations 
make such training most accessible to all their 
sons and daughters. This, after all, is only the 
general problem of education, formulated in 
slightly different terms. 

"Rough" terms, I said just now, because the 
words "energy" and "maximum" may easily sug- 
gest only quantity to the reader's mind, whereas 
in measuring the human energies of which I 
speak, qualities as well as quantities have to be 
taken into account. Everyone feels that his total 
power rises when he passes to a higher qualitative 
level of life. 

Saying "Yes" and Saying "No" 
Writing is higher than walking, thinking is 
higher than writing, deciding higher than think- 
ing, deciding "no" higher than deciding "yes" 
— at least the man who passes from one of 

In! 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

these activities to another will usually say- 
that each later one involves a greater ele- 
ment of inner work than the earlier ones, even 
though the total heat given out or the foot- 
pounds expended by the organism, may be less. 
Just how to conceive this inner work physiologi- 
cally is as yet impossible, but psychologically we 
all know what the word means. We need a par- 
ticular spur or effort to start us upon inner work ; 
it tires us to sustain it ; and when long sustained, 
we know how easily we lapse. When I speak of 
"energizing," and its rates and levels and sources, 
I mean therefore our inner as well as our outer 
work. 

Saying "Peace! Be Still" 
Let no one think, then, that our problem of in- 
dividual and national economy is solely that of 
the maximum of pounds raisable against gravity, 
the maximum of locomotion, or of agitation of 
any sort, that human beings can accomplish. 
That might signify little more than hurrying and 
jumping about in inco-ordinated ways; whereas 
inner work, though it so often reinforces outer 
work, quite as often means its arrest. To relax, 
to say to ourselves (with the "new thoughters") 

[12] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

"Peace! be still!" is sometimes a great achieve- 
ment of inner work. When I speak of human 
energizing in general, the reader must therefore 
understand that sum- total of activities, some 
outer and some inner, some muscular, some emo- 
tional, some moral, some spiritual, of whose wax- 
ing and waning in himself he is at all times so 
well aware. How to keep it at an appreciable 
maximum? How not to let the level lapse? 
That is the great problem. But the work of men 
and women is of innumerable kinds, each kind 
being, as we say, carried on by a particular 
faculty ; so the great problem splits into two sub- 
problems, thus: 

(1.) What are the limits of human faculty 
in various directions ? 

(2.) By what diversity of means, in the dif- 
fering types of human beings, may the faculties 
be stimulated to their best results ? 

Read in one way, these two questions sound 
both trivial and familiar : there is a sense in which 
we have all asked them ever since we were born. 
Yet as a methodical programme of scientific in- 
quiry, I doubt whether they have ever been seri- 
ously taken up. If answered fully, almost the 

[13] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

whole of mental science and of the science of con- 
duct would find a place under them. I propose, 
in what follows, to press them on the reader's 
attention in an informal way. 

Failing to Do All that We Can. 

The first point to agree upon in this enterprise 
is that as a rule men habitually use only a small 
part of the powers which they actually possess 
and which they might use under appropriate con- 
ditions. 

Every one is familiar with the phenomenon of 
feeling more or less alive on different days. 
Every one knows on any given day that there are 
energies slumbering in him which the incitements 
of that day do not call forth, but which he might 
display if these were greater. Most of us feel 
as if a sort of cloud weighed upon us, keeping us 
below our highest notch of clearness in discern- 
ment, sureness in reasoning, or firmness in de- 
ciding. Compared with what we ought to be, we 
are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our 
drafts are checked. We are making use of only 
a small part of our possible mental and physical 
resources. In some persons this sense of being 
cut off from their rightful resources is extreme, 

[14] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

and we then get the formidable neurasthenic and 
psychasthenic conditions, with life grown into 
one tissue of impossibilities, that so many medical 
books describe. 

Stating the thing broadly, the human individ- 
ual thus lives usually far within his limits; he 
possesses powers of various sorts which he habit- 
ually fails to use. He energizes below his 
maximum, and he behaves below his optimum. 
In elementary faculty, in co-ordination, in power 
of inhibition and control, in every conceivable 
way, his life is contracted like the field of vision 
of an hysteric subject — but with less excuse, for 
the poor hysteric is diseased, while in the rest of 
us it is only an inveterate habit — the habit of in- 
feriority to our full self — that is bad. 
Going Over the Dam. 

Admit so much, then, and admit also that the 
charge of being inferior to their full self is far 
truer of some men than of others ; then the prac- 
tical question ensues: to what do the better men 
owe their escape? and, in the fluctuations which 
all men feel in their own degree of energizing, 
to what are the improvements due, when they 
occur? 

[i5] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

In general terms the answer is plain : 

Either some unusual stimulus fills them with 
emotional excitement, or some unusual idea of 
necessity induces them to make an extra effort 
of will. Excitements, ideas, and efforts, in a 
word, are what carry us over the dam. 

In those "hyperesthetic" conditions which 
chronic invalidism so often brings in its train, the 
dam has changed its normal place. The slight- 
est functional exercise gives a distress which the 
patient yields to and stops. In such cases of 
"habit-neurosis" a new range of power often 
comes in consequence of the "bully ing-treat- 
ment," of efforts which the doctor obliges the 
patient, much against his will, to make. First 
comes the very extremity of distress, then fol- 
lows unexpected relief. There seems no doubt 
that we are each and all of us to some extent vic- 
tims of habit-neurosis. We have to admit the 
wider potential range and the habitually narrow 
actual use. We live subject to arrest by degrees 
of fatigue which we have come only from habit 
to obey. Most of us may learn to push the bar- 
rier farther off, and to live in perfect comfort 
on much higher levels of power. 

[16] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

The Energies of Roosevelt. 

Country people and city people, as a class, 
illustrate this difference. The rapid rate of life, 
the number of decisions in an hour, the many 
things to keep account of, in a busy city man's or 
woman's life, seem monstrous to a country 
brother. He doesn't see how we live at all. A 
day in New York or Chicago fills him with ter- 
ror. The danger and noise make it appear like 
a permanent earthquake. But settle him there, 
and in a year or two he will have caught the 
pulse-beat. He will vibrate to the city's rhythms ; 
and if he only succeeds in his avocation, what- 
ever that may be, he will find a joy in all the 
hurry and the tension, he will keep the pace as 
well as any of us, and get as much out of him- 
self in any week as he ever did in ten weeks in 
the country. 

The stimuli of those who successfully respond 
and undergo the transformation here, are duty, 
the example of others, and crowd-pressure and 
contagion. The transformation, moreover, is a 
chronic one: the new level of energy becomes 
permanent. The duties of new offices of trust 
are constantly producing this effect on the hu- 

[i7l 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

man beings appointed to them. The physiolo- 
gists call a stimulus "dynamogenic" when it in- 
creases the muscular contractions of men to 
whom it is applied; but appeals can be dynamo- 
genic morally as well as muscularly. We are 
witnessing here in America to-day the dynamo- 
genic effect of a very exalted political office upon 
the energies of an individual who had already 
manifested a healthy amount of energy before 
the office came. 

The Sublime Heroism of Women. 
Humbler examples show perhaps still better 
what chronic effects duty's appeal may produce 
in chosen individuals. John Stuart Mill some- 
where says that women excel men in the power of 
keeping up sustained moral excitement. Every 
case of illness nursed by wife or mother is a proof 
of this ; and where can one find greater examples 
of sustained endurance than in those thousands 
of poor homes, where the woman successfully 
holds the family together and keeps it going by 
taking all the thought and doing all the work — 
nursing, teaching, cooking, washing, sewing, 
scrubbing, saving, helping neighbors, "choring" 
outside — where does the catalogue end? If she 

[18] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

does a bit of scolding now and then who can 
blame her? But often she does just the reverse; 
keeping the children clean and the man good 
tempered, and soothing and smoothing the whole 
neighborhood into finer shape. 

Eighty years ago a certain Montyon left to the 
Academie Francaise a sum of money to be given 
in small prizes, to the best examples of "virtue" 
of the year. The academy's committees, with 
great good sense, have shown a partiality to vir- 
tues simple and chronic, rather than to her spas- 
modic and dramatic flights; and the exemplary 
housewives reported on have been wonderful and 
admirable enough. In Paul Bour get's report for 
this year we find numerous cases, of which this is 
a type; Jeanne Chaix, eldest of six children; 
mother insane, father chronically ill. Jeanne, 
with no money but her wages at a pasteboard-box 
factory, directs the household, brings up the chil- 
dren, and successfully maintains the family of 
eight, which thus subsists, morally as well as ma- 
terially, by the sole force of her valiant will. In 
some of these French cases charity to outsiders is 
added to the inner family burden; or helpless 
relatives, young or old, are adopted, as if the 

[19] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

strength were inexhaustible and ample for every 
appeal. Details are too long to quote here; but 
human nature, responding to the call of duty, 
appears nowhere sublimer than in the person of 
these humble heroines of family life. 

Buried Coal Miner's Great Achievement 
Turning from more chronic to acuter proofs 
of human nature's reserves of power, we find that 
the stimuli that carry us over the usually effective 
dam are most often the classic emotional ones, 
love, anger, crowd-contagion or despair. De- 
spair lames most people, but it wakes others fully 
up. Every siege or shipwreck or polar expedi- 
tion brings out some hero who keeps the whole 
company in heart. Last year there was a terrible 
colliery explosion at Courrieres in France. Two 
hundred corpses, if I remember rightly, were ex- 
humed. After twenty days of excavation, the 
rescuers heard a voice. "Me voici," said the first 
man unearthed. He proved to be a collier named 
Nemy, who had taken command of thirteen 
others in the darkness, disciplined them and 
cheered them, and brought them out alive. 
Hardly any of them could see or speak or walk 
when brought into the day. Five days later, a 

[20] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

different type of vital endurance was unexpect- 
edly unburied in the person of one Berton who, 
isolated from any but dead companions, had been 
able to sleep away most of his time. 

How a Soldier Survived an Awful Siege. 

A new position of responsibility will usually 
show a man to be a far stronger creature than 
was supposed. Cromwell's and Grant's careers 
are the stock examples of how war will wake a 
man up. I owe to Professor C. E. Norton, my 
colleague, the permission to print part of a pri- 
vate letter from Colonel Baird- Smith, written 
shortly after the six weeks' siege of Delhi, in 
1857, for the victorious issue of which that excel- 
lent officer was chiefly to be thanked. He writes 
as follows : 

"... My poor wife had some reason to 
think that war and disease between them had left 
very little of a husband to take under nursing 
when she got him again. An attack of camp- 
scurvy had filled my mouth with sores, shaken 
every joint in my body, and covered me all over 
with sores and livid spots, so that I was marvel- 
ously unlovely to look upon. A smart knock on 
the ankle-joint from the splinter of a shell that 
burst in my face, in itself a mere bagatelle of a 

[21] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

wound, had been of necessity neglected under 
the pressing and incessant calls upon me, and had 
grown worse and worse till the whole foot below 
the ankle became a black mass and seemed to 
threaten mortification. I insisted, however, on 
being allowed to use it till the place was taken, 
mortification or no; and though the pain was 
sometimes horrible, I carried my point and kept 
up to the last. On the day after the assault I 
had an unlucky fall on some bad ground, and it 
was an open question for a day or two whether 
I hadn't broken my arm at the elbow. For- 
tunately it turned out to be only a severe sprain, 
but I am still conscious of the wrench it gave me. 
To crown the whole pleasant catalogue, I was 
worn to a shadow by a constant diarrhoea, and 
consumed as much opium as would have done 
credit to my father-in-law (Thomas De Quin- 
cey) . However, thank God, I have a good share 
of Tapleyism in me and come out strong under 
difficulties. I think I may confidently say that 
no man ever saw me out of heart, or ever heard 
one croaking word from me even when our pros- 
pects were gloomiest. We were sadly scourged 
by the cholera, and it was almost appalling to me 
to find that out of twenty-seven officers present, 
I could only muster fifteen for the operations of 
the attack. However, it was done, and after it 
was done came the collapse. Don't be horrified 

[22] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

when I tell you that for the whole of the actual 
siege, and in truth for some little time before, I 
almost lived on brandy. Appetite for food I had 
none, but I forced myself to eat just sufficient to 
sustain life, and I had an incessant craving for 
brandy as the strongest stimulant I could get. 
Strange to say, I was quite unconscious of its 
affecting me in the slightest degree. The excite- 
ment of the work was so great that no lesser one 
seemed to have any chance against it, and I cer- 
tainly never found my intellect clearer or my 
nerves stronger in my life. It was only my 
wretched body that was weak, and the moment 
the real work was done by our becoming complete 
masters of Delhi, I broke down without delay 
and discovered that if I wished to live I must 
continue no longer the system that had kept me 
up until the crisis was passed. With it passed 
away as if in a moment all desire to stimulate, 
and a perfect loathing of my late staff of life 
took possession of me." 

Such experiences show how profound is the 
alteration in the manner in which, under excite- 
ment, our organism will sometimes perform its 
physiological work. The processes of repair be- 
come different when the reserves have to be used, 
and for weeks and months the deeper use may 

go on. 

[23] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

■ 

Morbid Cases of Women. 
Morbid cases, here as elsewhere, lay the nor- 
mal machinery bare. In the first number of Dr. 
Morton Prince's Journal of Abnormal Psycholo- 
gy, Dr. Janet has discussed five cases of morbid 
impulse, with an explanation that is precious for 
my present point of view. One is a girl who eats, 
eats, eats, all day. Another walks, walks, walks, 
and gets her food from an automobile that es- 
corts her. Another is a dipsomaniac. A fourth 
pulls out her hair. A fifth wounds her flesh and 
burns her skin. Hitherto such freaks of impulse 
have received Greek names (as bulimia, drom- 
omania, etc.) and been scientifically disposed of 
as "episodic syndromata of hereditary degenera- 
tion." But it turns out that Janet's cases are all 
what he calls psychasthenics, or victims of a 
chronic sense of weakness, torpor, lethargy, fa- 
tigue, insufficiency, impossibility, unreality, and 
powerlessness of will; and that in each and all 
of them the particular activity pursued, deleteri- 
ous though it be, has the temporary result of 
raising the sense of vitality and making the pa- 
tient feel alive again. These things reanimate: 
they would reanimate us; but it happens that in 

[34] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

each patient the particular freak-activity chosen 
is the only thing that does reanimate ; and therein 
lies the morbid state. The way to treat such per- 
sons is to discover to them more usual and useful 
ways of throwing their stores of vital energy into 
gear. 

Is a "Spree" Ever Good for You? 

Colonel B air d- Smith, needing to draw on al- 
together extraordinary stores of energy, found 
that brandy and opium were ways of throwing 
them into gear. 

Such cases are humanly typical. We are all 
to some degree oppressed, unfree. We don't 
come to our own. It is there, but we don't get at 
it. The threshold must be made to shift. Then 
many of us find that an eccentric activity — a 
"spree," say — relieves. There is no doubt that to 
some men sprees and excesses of almost any kind 
are medicinal, temporarily at any rate, in spite of 
what the moralists and doctors say. 

But when the normal tasks and stimulations of 
life don't put a man's deeper levels of energy on 
tap, and he requires distinctly deleterious excite- 
ments, his constitution verges on the abnormal. 
The normal opener of deeper and deeper levels 

[25] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

of energy is the will. The difficulty is to use it, 
to make the effort which the word volition im- 
plies. But if we do make it (or if a god, though 
he were only the god Chance, makes it through 
us), it will act dynamogenically on us for 
month. It is notorious that a single successful 
effort of moral volition, such as saying "no" to 
some habitual temptation, or performing some 
courageous act, will launch a man on a higher 
level of energy for days and weeks, will give 
him a new range of power. "In the act of 
uncorking the whiskey bottle which I had 
brought home to get drunk upon," said a man to 
me, "I suddenly found myself running out into 
the garden, where I smashed it on the ground. 
I felt so happy and uplifted after this act, that 
for two months I wasn't tempted to touch a 
drop." 

The emotions and excitements due to usual sit- 
uations are the usual inciters of the will. But 
these act discontinuously ; and in the intervals the 
shallower levels of life tend to close in and shut 
us off. Accordingly the best practical knowers 
of the human soul have invented the thing known 
as methodical ascetic discipline to keep the deeper 

[26] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

levels constantly in reach. Beginning with easy 
tasks, passing to harder ones, and exercising day 
by day, it is, I believe, admitted that disciples of 
asceticism can reach very high levels of freedom 
and power of will. 

Wonders of the Yoga System. 
Ignatius Loyola's spiritual exercises must 
have produced this result in innumerable de- 
votees. But the most venerable ascetic system, 
and the one whose results have the most volumi- 
nous experimental corroboration is undoubtedly 
the Yoga system in Hindustan. From time im- 
memorial, by Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma 
Yoga, or whatever code of practise it might be, 
Hindu aspirants to perfection have trained them- 
selves, month in and out, for years. The result 
claimed, and certainly in many cases accorded by 
impartial judges, is strength of character, per- 
sonal power, unshakability of soul. In an arti- 
cle in the Philosophical Review for January last, 
from which I am largely copying here, I have 
quoted at great length the experience with 
"Hatha Yoga" of a very gifted European friend 
of mine who, by persistently carrying out for 
several months its methods of fasting from food 

[27] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

and sleep, its exercises in breathing and thought- 
concentration, and its fantastic posture-gymnas- 
tics, seems to have succeeded in waking up deeper 
and deeper levels of will and moral and intellec- 
tual power in himself, and to have escaped from 
a decidedly menacing brain-condition of the "cir- 
cular" type, from which he had suffered for 
years. 

Judging by my friend's letters, of which the 
last I have is written fourteen months after the 
Yoga training began, there can be no doubt of 
his relative regeneration. He has undergone 
material trials with indifference, traveled third- 
class on Mediterranean steamers, and fourth- 
class on African trains, living with the poorest 
Arabs and sharing their unaccustomed food, all 
with equanimity. His devotion to certain inter- 
ests has been put to heavy strain, and nothing is 
more remarkable to me than the changed moral 
tone with which he reports the situation. A pro- 
found modification has unquestionably occurred 
in the running of his mental machinery. The 
gearing has changed, and his will is available 
otherwise than it was. 

My friend is a man of very peculiar tempera- 
[28] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

ment. Few of us would have had the will to start 
upon the Yoga training, which, once started, 
seemed to conjure the further will-power needed 
out of itself. And not all of those who could 
launch themselves would have reached the same 
results. The Hindus themselves admit that in 
some men the results may come without call or 
bell. My friend writes to me: "You are quite 
right in thinking that religious crises, love-crises, 
indignation-crises may awaken in a very short 
time powers similar to those reached by years of 
patient Yoga-practice." 

Probably most medical men would treat this 
individual's case as one of what it is fashionable 
now to call by the name of "self-suggestion/ ' or 
"expectant attention" — as if those phrases were 
explanatory, or meant more than the fact that 
certain men can be influenced, while others can- 
not be influenced, by certain sorts of ideas. This 
leads me to say a word about ideas considered as 
dynamogenic agents, or stimuli for unlocking 
what would otherwise be unused reservoirs of in- 
dividual power. 

One thing that ideas do is to contradict other 
ideas and keep us from believing them. An idea 

[29 1 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

that thus negates a first idea may itself in turn 
be negated by a third idea, and the first idea may 
thus regain its natural influence over our belief 
and determine our behavior. Our philosophic 
and religious development proceeds thus by cred- 
ulities, negations, and the negating of negations. 
Ideas Which Unlock Our Hidden Energies. 

But whether for arousing or for stopping be- 
lief, ideas may fail to be efficacious, just as a 
wire at one time alive with electricity, may at an- 
other time be dead. Here our insight into causes 
fails us, and we can only note results in general 
terms. In general, whether a given idea shall 
be a live idea depends more on the person into 
whose mind it is injected than on the idea itself. 
Which is the suggestive idea for this person, and 
which for that one? Mr. Fletcher's disciples re- 
generate themselves by the idea (and the fact) 
that they are chewing, and re-chewing, and 
super-chewing their food. Dr. Dewey's pupils 
regenerate themselves by going without their 
breakfast — a fact, but also an ascetic idea. Not 
every one can use these ideas with the same suc- 
cess. 

But apart from such individually varying sus- 

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THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

ceptibilities, there are common lines along which 
men simply as men tend to be inflammable by 
ideas. As certain objects naturally awaken love, 
anger, or cupidity, so certain ideas naturally 
awaken the energies of loyalty, courage, endur- 
ance, or devotion. When these ideas are effective 
in an individual's life, their effect is often very 
great indeed. They may transfigure it, unlock- 
ing innumerable powers which, but for the idea, 
would never have come into play. "Fatherland," 
"the Flag," "the Union," "Holy Church," "the 
Monroe Doctrine," "Truth," "Science," "Lib- 
erty," Garibaldi's phrase "Rome or Death," etc., 
are so many examples of energy-releasing ideas. 
The social nature of such phrases is an essential 
factor of their dynamic power. They are forces 
of detent in situations in which no other force 
produces equivalent effects, and each is a force 
of detent only in a specific group of men. 

The Power in a Temperance "Pledge" 
The memory that an oath or vow has been made 
will nerve one to abstinences and efforts other- 
wise impossible; witness the "pledge" in the his- 
tory of the temperance movement. A mere prom- 
ise to his sweetheart will clean up a youth's life all 

[31] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

over — at any rate for a time. For such effects 
an educated susceptibility is required. The idea 
of one's "honor," for example, unlocks energy 
only in those of us who have had the education 
of a "gentleman," so called. 

That delightful being, Prince Pueckler-Mus- 
kau, writes to his wife from England that he has 
invented "a sort of artificial resolution respecting 
things that are difficult of performance. My de- 
vice," he continues, "is this: I give my word of 
honor most solemnly to myself to do or to leave 
undone this or that. I am of course extremely 
cautious in the use of this expedient, but when 
once the word is given, even though I afterwards 
think I have been precipitate or mistaken, I hold 
it to be perfectly irrevocable, whatever incon- 
veniences I foresee likely to result. If I were 
capable of breaking my word after such mature 
consideration, I should lose all respect for my- 
self, — and what man of sense would not prefer 
death to such an alternative? . . . When the 
mysterious formula is pronounced, no alteration 
in my own view nothing short of physical im- 
possibilities, must, for the welfare of my soul, 
alter my will. ... I find something very satis* 

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THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

factory in the thought that man has the power 
of framing such props and weapons out of the 
most trivial materials, indeed out of nothing, 
merely by the force of his will, which thereby 
truly deserves the name of omnipotent."* 

Conversions, whether they be political, scien- 
tific, philosophic, or religious, form another way 
in which bound energies are let loose. They unify 
us, and put a stop to ancient mental interfer- 
ences. The result is freedom, and often a great 
enlargement of power. A belief that thus settles 
upon an individual always acts as a challenge to 
his will. But, for the particular challenge to op- 
erate, he must be the right challenge. In re- 
ligious conversions we have so fine an adjustment 
that the idea may be in the mind of the challen- 
gee for years before it exerts effects; and why 
it should do so then is often so far from obvious 
that the event is taken for a miracle of grace, and 
not a natural occurrence. Whatever it is, it may 
be a highwater mark of energy, in which "noes," 
once impossible, are easy, and in which a new 
range of "y eses " gains the right of way. 

* "Tour in England, Ireland and France," Philadelphia, 1833, p. 435. 

[33] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

The Value of Christian Science. 

We are just now witnessing a very copious 
unlocking of energies by ideas in the persons of 
those converts to "New Thought," "Christian 
Science," "Metaphysical Healing," or other 
forms of spiritual philosophy, who are so numer- 
ous among us to-day. The ideas here are healthy- 
minded and optimistic; and it is quite obvious 
that a wave of religious activity, analogous in 
some respects to the spread of early Christianity, 
Buddhism, and Mohammedanism, is passing over 
our American world. The common feature of 
these optimistic faiths is that they all tend to the 
suppression of what Mr. Horace Fletcher calls 
"fearthought." Fearthought he defines as the 
"self-suggestion of inferiority" ; so that one may 
say that these systems all operate by the sug- 
gestion of power. And the power, small or great, 
comes in various shapes to the individual, — 
power, as he will tell you, not to "mind" things 
that used to vex him, power to concentrate his 
mind, good cheer, good temper — in short, to put 
it mildly, a firmer, more elastic moral tone. 

The most genuinely saintly person I have ever 
known is a friend of mine now suffering from 

[34] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

cancer of the breast — I hope that she may par- 
don my citing her here as an example of what 
ideas can do. Her ideas have kept her a practi- 
cally well woman for months after she should 
have given up and gone to bed. They have an- 
nulled all pain and weakness and given her a 
cheerful active life, unusually beneficent to others 
to whom she has afforded help. Her doctors, ac- 
quiescing in results they could not understand, 
have had the good sense to let her go her own 
way. 

How far the mind-cure movement is destined 
to extend its influence, or what intellectual modi- 
fications it may yet undergo, no one can foretell. 
It is essentially a religious movement, and to 
academically nurtured minds its utterances are 
tasteless and often grotesque enough. It also 
incurs the natural enmity of medical politicians, 
and of the whole trades-union wing of that pro- 
fession. But no unprejudiced observer can fail 
to recognize its importance as a social phenom- 
enon to-day, and the higher medical minds are 
already trying to interpret it fairly, and make its 
power available for their own therapeutic ends. 



[35] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

Prayer as a Sleep-Producer. 

Dr. Thomas Hyslop, of the great West Rid- 
ing Asylum in England, said last year to the 
British Medical Association that the best sleep- 
producing agent which his practice had revealed 
to him, was prayer. I say this, he added (I am 
sorry here that I must quote from memory), 
purely as a medical man. The exercise of prayer, 
in those who habitually exert it, must be regarded 
by us doctors as the most adequate and normal of 
all the pacifiers of the mind and calmers of the 
nerves. 

But in few of us are functions not tied up 
by the exercise of other functions. Relatively 
few medical men and scientific men, I fancy, can 
pray. Few can carry on any living commerce 
with "God." Yet many of us are well aware of 
how much freer and abler our lives would be, 
were such important forms of energizing not 
sealed up by the critical atmosphere in which we 
have been reared. There are in every one po- 
tential forms of activity that actually are shunted 
out from use. Part of the imperfect vitality un- 
der which we labor can thus be easily explained. 
One part of our mind dams up — even damns up ! 

— the other parts. 

[36] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

Trying to Work with One Finger. 

Conscience makes cowards of us all. Social 
conventions prevent us from telling the truth 
after the fashion of the heroes and heroines of 
Bernard Shaw. We all know persons who are 
models of excellence, but who belong to the ex- 
treme philistine type of mind. So deadly is their 
intellectual respectability that we can't converse 
about certain subjects at all, can't let our minds 
play over them, can't even mention them in their 
presence. I have numbered among my dearest 
friends persons thus inhibited intellectually, with 
whom I would gladly have been able to talk 
freely about certain interests of mine, certain 
authors, say, as Bernard Shaw, Chesterton, Ed- 
ward Carpenter, H. G. Wells, but it wouldn't do, 
it made them too uncomfortable, they wouldn't 
play, I had to be silent. An intellect thus tied 
down by literality and decorum makes on one the 
same sort of an impression that an able-bodied 
man would who should habituate himself to do 
his work with only one of his fingers, locking up 
the rest of his organism and leaving it unused. 

I trust that by this time I have said enough to 
convince the reader both of the truth and of the 

[37] 



THE ENERGIES OF MEN 

importance of my thesis. The two questions, 
first, that of the possible extent of our powers; 
and, second, that of the various avenues of ap- 
proach to them, the various keys for unlocking 
them in diverse individuals, dominate the whole 
problem of individual and national education. 
We need a topography of the limits of human 
power, similar to the chart which oculists use of 
the field of human vision. We need also a study 
of the various types of human being with refer- 
ence to the different ways in which their energy- 
reserves may be appealed to and set loose. Biog- 
raphies and individual experiences of every kind 
may be drawn upon for evidence here. 



[38] 



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